Thailand Taps Former Energy Executive Pichai as Finance Minister

In a move aimed at steering Thailand’s economy through challenging times, the government is set to appoint former corporate energy executive Pichai Chunhavajira as the new finance minister, sources within the administration have revealed.

At 75 years old, Pichai brings a wealth of experience to the role, having served as an adviser to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and held prominent positions in both the corporate and financial sectors. His resignation as chair of Bangchak Corporation earlier this month paved the way for his new appointment, signaling a shift toward a pivotal role in economic policy-making.

With a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pichai’s extensive career includes a stint as a board member of the Bank of Thailand and a director at PTT Exploration and Production. His tenure on the central bank board and experience in corporate leadership positions underscore his qualifications for the finance ministry.

If confirmed, Pichai will face the formidable challenge of revitalizing Thailand’s economy, which has struggled to keep pace with regional peers amid high household debt, borrowing costs, and China’s economic slowdown. His responsibilities will include overseeing key government policies, such as a flagship 500 billion baht handout scheme aimed at stimulating domestic spending.

However, Pichai inherits an economy grappling with setbacks, including a contraction in the final quarter of 2023 and subdued growth rates below previous years. With the state planning agency revising down its 2024 economic growth outlook, the new finance minister must navigate complex economic terrain to spur recovery and sustainable growth.

As Thailand looks toward a period of economic revival and resilience, Pichai’s appointment signals a strategic move to leverage his expertise and leadership to navigate the nation’s economic challenges and chart a course toward prosperity.